This Bus Runs From Monologue To Dialogue
So, imagine my delight while walking to work yesterday morning through downtown Chicago as I passed a CTA bus that had the living embodiment of Web 2.0 splashed across its advertising panel. I chuckled as I was struck by this non-Web example of the whole Social Media hubbub we see happening online. Forgetting that for the vast majority of my fellow commuters, this scene likely held nothing close to the same level of fascination – heck, I stopped to take a picture of the side of a CTA bus at 8:45 in the morning, something must be wrong with me – but this scene stopped me in my tracks. Defacing billboards is nothing new, but that someone with a black marker had transformed some unassuming ad text about a perfectly delicious hazelnut and chocolate bar (“driving you nuts”) into an engaging and somewhat witty open ended question regarding our city’s transit system resonated for me on many levels. “Is C.T.A. ‘driving you nuts’ ?” Classic.
At the deepest level, it touched me because I had spent all of my high school years riding CTA trains and buses every day to and from school, and many were the times that I could blame the CTA for getting me to school late. And at Lane Tech that meant Mr. Burns was going to give you a period of detention for being tardy. “But the bus…” It was a pointless argument. Yes, the CTA had driven me nuts plenty of times.
Tied into my current professional life that centers on web marketing and all this social media stuff, I couldn’t help wondering if the CTA was catching this mention of their brand. I couldn’t help but note how a person had engaged with an advertising message, striking up a dialogue – not even related to the advertiser itself, but with an entirely different, yet wholly present business entity – and while I reached for my phone’s camera, I wouldn’t be surprised if later in the day, someone reached for another marker to add an answer to the question now sitting on the side of a bus.
Like a blog post, forum question, or fan page, here was in interactive marketing experience, the evolution from monologue to dialogue. Here was a brand being taking to task. Here was an invitation to continue a conversation. Here was a “real world” example of precisely what we see going on in the current Internet experience. I found it at once comical, and poignant. And while it probably means far less to those uninterested in this online space, it’s probably something at least mildly interesting to you, a person who is right now taking the time to read a blog like this one at all.
As I continue to preach the lack of distinction between who you are, and who you are online (whether a person or a business), I wonder if this is life imitating art in some way, and if perhaps knowing which is which is becoming intriguingly more and more difficult to discern.
Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.